Ministry of IT in Pakistan is a sheer waste of tax payer money

Following is a response to a letter by Mr. Wahaj us Siraj, Convenor of Internet Service Providers Association of Pakistan (ISPAK), to Mrs. Nergis Sethi, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister of Pakistan.

Dear Mr. Wahaj us Siraj,

You have written this letter to the Secretariat of The Prime Minister. For the record Prime Minister himself is responsible for:

1. not appointing a Minister despite having the largest cabinet of ministers (but most likely that wouldn’t have made a difference as blindness is the hallmark of the cabinet and not vision)
2. appointing the present narcissist Federal Secy, MoIT who claims there is no digital divide in this country. The Secretary Saab recently in a forum hit back when told that the subject his team wanted to discuss didn’t come under the purview of policy as he deems himself a scholar of public policy
3. appointing Member Telecom “on merit” . The PM was given a list of three shortlisted candidates one coming from army background (and having no clue about telecom policy issues) and the other having a case of corruption against him. The obvious choice was the incumbent Member Telecom (on acting charge) whose competence is well known to all of us. This was a hiring on merit for how could the Prime Minister know his competence when the list provided to him was engineered innocently? The Ex Secretary for MoIT should be accountable for this gross negligence as he is known to be a man who goes by the book (and not using his professional judgment in this instance)

In my view as long as this government remains it would be much better not to have a policy. The people being paid from the taxpayer’s money have no understanding of what gap analysis they should conduct on the previous targets/policy and what new targets we need to set for which policy framework needs to be formulated.

Knowing the way bureaucracy works, PSPM will send this letter to Secretary Saab who will draft a lengthy response drafted by the ones whom otherwise someone won’t even hire as clerks but the Ministry pays them in MP scales. Then PSPM will submit this letter along with Secretary Saab’s response and advise the PM on what response the PM Sectt should give to your letter. So expect a letter which will give you some comfort and once again ask the Ministry to resolve your issues. In fact the MoIt has issued a clarification in The News which is full of verbosity for which the Honorable Secretary is becoming famous for.
The case will be closed in the PM Sectt. and remain in the domain of ministry who would either start its consultation or conveniently send it to PTA (when it would realize it can’t do much about it).

What has become of PTA during the last few years is known to all of us as Major General Shahzada made sure to leave behind a very weak and meek authority despite having brought some talent from the market. Once again it’s this Govt. that is responsible for hurriedly removing him without thinking about a proper replacement for this responsible position.

During the consultation with stakeholders recently Member Telecom’s presentation had convergence coming in the last and that too as an unclear subject and most of the time was spent on issues which were not at all related to policy review. If you go through the presentation he gave, you would wonder why someone who makes sure to attend all international telecom events could be so naïve about telecom policy matters.

It is unfortunate that all the stalwarts of the previous policy are now out of scene for at least they had learnt from their mistakes and the policy they worked brought a lot of good results as well. The MoIT doesn’t even have a support of a reputed foreign consultant who could put some sense and carry forward the never ending consultation. MoIT had hired the services of Analysis in 2002 when the deregulation policy was framed but now we have home grown talent sitting in the MoIT who know everything that is important yet will not be able to deliver.

You are expecting solutions from a Ministry that has started disbursing USF for broadband without giving the chance to the service providers to serve the addressable demand. That is why now broadband operators are crying when PTCL is offering cheap broadband in areas where it has been given subsidy. This is just one example of how blindly the ministry and USF Company have made a fool of themselves by distorting the market in a sector where level playing is a must. The blunders of MoIT and PTA are too many to allow them to function and that is why I believe no policy from them will be a lesser curse as the disaster they are capable of bringing in through a new policy is beyond our imagination

I have a lot more to say but I don’t want to write it further for it will not change anything as we are unfortunate to have incompetence and lack of will amongst the people who could otherwise make a lot of difference given the positions they are occupying.

May God have mercy on us…..

By: Junaid Zaabir

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